OMAHA – Jace Peters admits he’s having the time of his life playing college soccer for the team he idolized as a youngster growing up in Glenwood.
“I guess you could say it has always been a dream to play at Creighton,” Peters said during an interview last weekend. “I watched plenty of Creighton soccer games before I was ever on the team. Being around this area and playing club soccer in Omaha, you get to know the program.”
Peters, a 2008 Glenwood Community High School graduate, is a senior defender on a Creighton team that finds itself just one win away from earning a berth in the College Cup, Division I mens soccer version of the “Final Four.” A win at home Saturday afternoon against South Florida in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals would send the Bluejays to the College Cup in Hoover, Ala., Dec. 9-11.
“I’m really enjoying the run we’re going on right now,” Peters said.
Peters would like nothing more than to finish his collegiate soccer career in the College Cup. Competing for a Division I national championship would be special to every Bluejay player, but maybe even more so to Peters who began his college career at Doane College, an NAIA school in Crete, Neb.
Peters enrolled at Doane in 2008 because Creighton didn’t show interest in his services until late in the recruiting process after he had already committed to the Tigers.
“I was kind of recruited at the very end. I was already committed to Doane,” he said. They wanted me to walk on to Creighton, but financially that didn’t really make sense for my family.”
Peters spent his freshman and sophomore seasons at Doane, starting 32-of-34 games and scoring three goals. He earned All-Great Plains Athletic Conference honors his sophomore season. It was connections Peters had with former Creighton players and coaches through his participation in the U.S. Open Cup that kept him visible to the Bluejay program.
Peters started 8-of-12 games his first season at Creighton in 2010, but saw his playing time limited midway through the season by a sports hernia and groin injury.
“My junior year, we were successful. We lost to SMU in the second round on a pretty crazy ending” Peters recalls. “We knew we had the talent and I knew when I got here that we were good enough. It was just putting the pieces together.”
The pieces started coming together last winter when Creighton athletic director Bruce Rasmussen announced the surprise hiring of Elmar Bolowich as the Bluejays’ new head coach. Bolowich was lured to Creighton from North Carolina where he had just completed a 22-year run with the Tar Heels that included 15 NCAA Tournament appearances, four College Cups and a national championship in 2001. Bolowich came to Omaha with the reputation of producing championship teams and developing his talent into international and professional players.
Bolowich is the third head coach to be at the helm of the Bluejay program since Peters made the decision to transfer from Doane. He was initially recruited by Jay Mims and Bob Warming.
“They left for Penn State before I even got here,” Peters said. “Jamie Clark came in last year and it was a great season. I loved the coaching staff. Then you kind of go through the whole process again. I guess nobody anticipated getting a coach like Elmar. It kind of came as a shock to all of us, but we’re definitely happy to have him.
“It’s been great playing for Elmar. He definitely knows exactly what he’s talking about. He has everybody’s attention, obviously, at all times. Everybody on the team knows he’s been there before. He’s won a national championship, he’s been to three consecutive final fours with North Carolina. He’s very respected by everybody in the college soccer world. I have the utmost respect for him.”
Peters said the Bluejays have a unique style of play under Bolowich.
“We play really, really high pressure offense and defense, so he always says if we’re not attacking the goal when we have the ball, then we’re attacking the ball to get it back,” Peters said. “It’s up-tempo and everybody has to be pretty fit.”
Under Bolowich’s leadership in 2011, the Bluejays have soared to a 20-2 record and No. 2 national ranking. Creighton ranks No. 1 nationally in team defense.
Peters is a defensive specialist, but scored the third goal in the Bluejays’ 3-0 win over Central Arkansas earlier this season. The shot in the net came off a corner kick.
Peters has been playing soccer since the first grade, the year his family moved to Glenwood from Wisconsin. He played several years of rec soccer in Glenwood before he and longtime friend Brady Blankenship began playing club soccer in Omaha.
In high school, Peters played for coach Mike Artist and was an instrumental member of the Rams’ state-ranked soccer program. Peters started four years at GCHS, serving as a captain for three years and earning all-conference and all-state honors during his junior and senior seasons. Peters tallied 18 goals and nine assists for 45 points during his high school career. The Rams achieved a No. 1 state ranking during Peters’ freshman and senior seasons.
Finishing out his collegiate career in Omaha, Peters has a strong fan base of friends and family members from Glenwood who attend Bluejay games on a regular basis.
“It’s great to play in front of my family,” he said. “Every single home game, I have my whole immediate family, grandparents, aunts, uncles and then even the Glenwood faces. Mike and Jennie Artist always sit in the same location. When we go to the locker room, I hear somebody say my name and I look up and see it’s a face from Glenwood. That’s pretty cool.”
Peters is majoring in biology with a 3.61 grade point average. He plans to attend chiropractic school after he earns his bachelor’s degree from Creighton. Last week, Peters was named an honorable mention member of the Missouri Valley Conference’s Mens Soccer Scholar-Athlete Team and was previously recognized on the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) All-Region First-Team.